the hook of the eagle's beak


Don't think I mentioned what I did with a chunk of yesterday: went to the BISAC meeting in the Scholastic building. BISAC is the body that determines the category system that the book-publishing industry uses to sort everything it publishes; it's used by buyers to some extent, by stores (for shelving) to some extent, and by online retailers to a much greater extent. I was with a group of people from the comics community who were advocating a separate category with subcategories for comics/graphic novels (so they don't all get filed under "humor," and so, as Rich Johnston from DC put it, Powerpuff Girls doesn't get filed next to Preacher). We seem to have convinced them that that was a good idea. Art Spiegelman was there (and not smoking, which surprised everyone familiar with him); he told the story of how a bookstore he frequents had had Maus on its front table for ten years. When he finally went up to the proprietors to introduce himself and thank them for the publicity, they said "thank you, but it's nothing personal--we just couldn't figure out where to shelve it!"

Spent today on a field trip with NAJP to the Barnes Foundation HQ in Philadelphia. Dr. Barnes was a pharmaceutical millionaire in the early part of the century, and an art fancier and heavy-duty æsthete with an æ. He bought up pretty much everything he could get his hands on by almost every important European artist of his era (our tour guide couldn't think of any significant exceptions besides Kandinsky; I'd have added Duchamp to that, but it's not like Philly is short on Duchamp), and arranged the paintings (and some drawings and other things and folk artifacts) all over the walls of his museum--covering the walls as fully as he could get away with. There are a few really extraordinary pieces in the collection (like Matisse's "Joy of Life," which predates Picasso's "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" and goes at least as far out, and a kick-ass blue Picasso from 1903 of a seated man), lots of interesting minor-to-not-so-minor Degas, Van Gogh, etc., and MASSIVE amounts of Renoir, some of it shockingly awful (a whole lot of nudes with gobs of Vaseline on the lens, effectively--Renoir seems to have had a real weakness for those). Worth seeing if you get the chance--the museum is only allowed to admit 1200 people a week, so you have to reserve at least a month in advance.

Dinner tonight with my old friend R., who's now a consultant, and her consultant friend W. "I've totally sold out," R. says with pride that she likes to pretend is shame (the grin gives it away). She has now worked for so many tobacco companies that nondisclosure agreements prevent her from looking at the "really interesting" intranets of others--and she is unhappy about this. It took a great deal of effort not to suggest that al-Qaeda's intranet setup is supposed to be especially cool, and maybe she could try for that gig too. I also avoided bringing up Plato's idea of "moral incontinence"--when you know perfectly well what the right thing to do is and nothing's stopping you from doing it, but you don't do it anyway. Then W. started going off on how unfair she thinks it is that here in America one is supposed to tip people--cab drivers, waiters, hairdressers, it just doesn't stop, why, you can pay $100 to have your hair done and then you're supposed to pay the hairdresser an extra tip, isn't the service exactly what you've already paid for?, I mean, where I'm coming from-- "Where you're coming from is boarding school," I snapped before I could hold myself back.

I managed to sort of salvage that into something more restrained about the blue-collar-on-down cash economy, and how the point of tipping is partly that one can pay people without also making them pay tax or having to pay it oneself, and would you rather pay list price of $100 plus a $15 tip for a haircut or list price of $120 service compris, etc., and then tried to derail it into a more abstract discussion of how e.g. Marcel Proust was legendary for tipping at least 100% at all times, but by then I think the damage had been done. Which is a pity: as far as I'm concerned, the primary goal of an argument is to convince the person one's arguing with that not only does he or she agree with you but that he or she always has. I would especially have liked to have done that in this case.

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This page contains a single entry by Douglas published on January 18, 2003 12:34 AM.

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